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4/11: Adam Schefter of ESPN is reporting the Steelers have re-signed WR Jericho Cotchery to a 2 year contract.
The Steelers currently have a few things in their favor with regard to re-signing Mike Wallace. These are factors that seemed stacked against the team earlier in the offseason.
First, the team has shrewdly and wisely restructured contracts and reconsidered the need for a few aging veterans, reestablishing both cap solvency as well as some liquidity. In other words, whether it's No. 17 or other free agents, Pittsburgh has a bit of flexibility that seemed almost impossible only a month ago.
Secondly, the Steelers have placed a $2.75 million tender on Wallace. As such, they have the right to match an offer provided by another NFL team, which would likely need to be very handsome—especially on the front end of the deal (specifically, the first year)—for the Steelers to part ways. In addition to this dissuading factor, any NFL team that would sign Wallace under the tendering provisions would forfeit its first round selection in the April draft.
So, is Wallace worth the price of admission and a first-round selection? Consider that great receivers can be found at various stages of the NFL draft. Consider in Steelers history that none of the trio of Ward, Wallace and Stallworth were taken earlier than the third round.
In other words, a first-round draft choice is a steep price to pay!
I fully expect the Steelers to come to a long-term agreement with the rocket receiver quickly after the start of free agency. If so, that should cap most of the team's focus at the wideout position.
However, provided they do not come to an accord, what other receivers could the team entertain? (I'll also add at this time that the addition of another first-round choice would give the team trading leverage to move up and acquire NT Dontari Poe, who performed amazingly at the scouting combine.)
Well, first and foremost is Jericho Cotchery, a tough-as-nails receiver who was embraced by Steelers Country during a productive second half of 2011. He has experience in a starting role, but he is equally capable of playing in the slot, physical and determined, like a prize fighter on the inside.
Then there is the name that has the entire NFL rumor mill on the fast spin setting, Plaxico Burress, who began his politicking about a week ago:
Ben Roethlisberger has always been my favorite quarterback. People can say what they want to about him, but the guy just goes out and wins. And he's been that way since he came to Pittsburgh in 2004.
Aww, shucks. That said, the signing of Burress, while not impossible, seems like a long shot for both sides. Nevertheless, the odds are not as steep as some of the other names that have been mentioned.
While names like Vincent Jackson and Marques Colston have entered the mix, what are the odds of the team signing either of them if the price for Wallace becomes too steep? Even ex-Colts Reggie Wayne and Pierre Garcon—the latter of whom presents youth, skill and a lofty yards-per-reception average—will be hard to land with receiver-desperate teams like San Francisco, Jacksonville and Washington.
UPDATE: Pipe dreams be damned for those fans unaware of the team's cap constraints and harboring grand wishes: Garcon to the 'Skins and Jackson to the 'Bucs. That said, the WR market, outside of "Mega-tron," is lending itself nicely to a smooth transition for the team's re-signing Wallace. So far, no action, and most predict the price is too steep anyway, especially against the loss of a first round draft selection.
Can the Steelers really afford to out-bid Dan Snyder for a veteran receiver whenever there are other positions that can be filled?
Expect the Steelers to re-sign Wallace and/or Cotchery, continuing the already present chemistry between the franchise quarterback and a fine receiving corps.